MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Practice Test 15

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No empirical studies show what proportion of the United States population would have to participate in disruptive and violent demonstrations to seriously threaten the political system. Surely the level of anti-regime violence of recent years has not been sufficient to undermine the viability of the American system. Although the actual participants in peaceful demonstrations or violent protests are far fewer in number than the individuals who approve of these activities, most Americans do not approve of either peaceful or violent protests. In both 1968 and 1972, less than one in five Americans approved of peaceful demonstrations and less than one in ten approved of violent, disruptive protests. Although the level of support for these activities did not increase between 1968 and 1972, the level of opposition declined. Increasing numbers of people seem to be willing to tolerate demonstrations and protests under some circumstances.

If the present relationships persist into the future, increasingly greater tolerance but not necessarily more widespread participation can be anticipated. Among college graduates under age thirty, more than 50 percent approve of peaceful demonstrations, and only 10 percent disapprove. These relationships suggest that as education levels increase, approval of demonstrations will increase. These attitudes suggest a growing unwillingness to be repressive against political interests expressed through peaceful demonstrations, perhaps because the claims of participants are granted some legitimacy.

In these terms, there is some uneasiness about the public support for American democracy-and perhaps for any democratic regime. It is possible to view the United States as a democratic system that has survived without a strong democratic political culture because governmental policies have gained a continual, widespread acceptance. If that satisfaction erodes, however, as it has begun to do, the public has no deep commitment to democratic values and processes that will inhibit support of anti-democratic leaders or disruptive activities.

It is argued that in the absence of insistence on particular values and procedures, democratic regimes will fail. Clearly, a mass public demanding democratic values and procedures is stronger support for a democratic system than a mass public merely willing to tolerate a democratic regime. This does not mean, however, that the stronger form of support is necessary for a democratic system, although superficially it appears desirable. Quite possibly, strong support is nearly impossible to attain, and weaker support is adequate, given other conditions.

In our view, the analysis of support for democratic regimes has been misguided by an emphasis on factors contributing to the establishment of democracy, not its maintenance. Stronger public support probably is required for the successful launching of a democracy than it is for maintaining an already established democracy. Possibly, preserving a regime simply requires that no substantial proportion of the society be actively hostile to the regime and engage in disruptive activities. In other words, absence of disruptive acts, not the presence of supportive attitudes, is crucial.

On the other hand, the positive support by leaders for a political system is essential to its existence. If some leaders are willing to oppose the system, it is crucial that there be no substantial number of followers to which the leaders can appeal. The followers' attitudes, as opposed to their willingness to act themselves, may provide a base of support for antisystem behavior by leaders. In this sense unanimous public support for democratic principles would be a more firm basis for a democratic system. The increasing levels of dissatisfaction, accompanied by a lack of strong commitment to democratic values in the American public, appear to create some potential for public support of undemocratic leaders. In this light, the public's loyalty to political parties and commitment to traditional processes that inhibit aspiring undemocratic leaders become all the more important.

Material used in this particular passage has been adapted from the following source:

W.H. Flanigan and N.H. Zingale, Political Behavior of the American Electorate. ©1979 by Allyn Bacon.

1. Elsewhere, the author describes factors that led to the founding of American democracy. If his account is consistent with the information in the passage, such a discussion would most likely include which of the following?

  • A. Heroic descriptions of violent uprisings against the British such as the Boston Tea Party
  • B. Anecdotes concerning George Washington's idealistic motivations
  • C. Data suggesting vigorous support for democracy was widespread in America at the time
  • D. A suggestion that more peaceful forms of protest would have given way to a more effective democracy

2. Which of the following, if true, would most strengthen the author's assertion that public support for peaceful protest is likely to increase over time?

  • A. A hunger strike by a charismatic dissident leader gains some public support
  • B. Clashes between protestors and police lead to increased participation in violent protests
  • C. Five years prior to the survey of college graduates cited by the author, 70 percent of college graduates were shown to approve of nonviolent demonstrations
  • D. Increased government funding will allow colleges to admit larger classes in the future

3. The author suggests all of the following are generally necessary for a democracy to thrive EXCEPT:

  • A. public distaste for violent antigovernment activity.
  • B. leaders committed to the pursuit of democratic ideals.
  • C. an electorate that insists upon democratic values in government.
  • D. an insufficient dissident population to support an undemocratic leader.

4. The primary purpose of the passage is to:

  • A. contrast the relative merits of violent and nonviolent protest.
  • B. describe conditions in which a government would fail.
  • C. argue that free speech has deleterious effects.
  • D. consider factors that determine the stability of a certain type of political system.

5. Suppose a set of American national politicians were to renounce their loyalty to existing political parties and create a new party founded on communist ideals. Given the information in the passage, their success at creating political change would most likely depend on:

  • A. acceptance of their ideas among a critical mass of the populace.
  • B. support among more educated Americans.
  • C. a loyal following willing to actively campaign on their behalf.
  • D. a clearly delineated party platform.

6. The author implies that between 1968 and 1972:

  • A. acceptance of protest increased and opposition to protest did not decline.
  • B. social unrest led to greater acceptance of protest as a necessary part of political life.
  • C. Americans' objection to certain types of protest decreased.
  • D. there was no change in Americans' attitudes toward protest.

7. The American populace is portrayed as generally:

  • A. distrustful of government and prone to take political action against its violations of democratic ideals.
  • B. accepting of America's long history of violence and unrest.
  • C. willing to passively accept a government that meets its basic requirements.
  • D. patriotic and unwilling to tolerate dissent.